Once highly stigmatized, psychedelics are now breaking the field into eating disorders and chronic pain management.
According to the latest clinical trials, renewed investigations have emerged about the use of psychedelic substances for treating a range of different health problems. Such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
But, one of its most notable properties is the positive outcomes on chronic pain and possibly eating disorders. People are fully aware of the potential harms that come with psychedelic drugs. When used as an illicit substance, this powerful product can cause hallucinations.
Psychedelics can also be addictive and cause drug cravings, sweating, and headaches with discontinued use. Based on recent reports, there were over 30 million psychedelic users in the U.S. About 32 million were recorded using psychedelic medicine.
The question is, how effective are these substances? Can they really treat chronic pain and eating disorders? Can psychedelics cause severe addiction or dependence? Is using them in medical treatment safe?
This guide will answer all the questions for you. Here is a detailed analysis of the impact of psychedelic treatment, mainly on pain, eating disorders, and addiction.
Psychedelics – Covering the Basics
- In 2019, 2% of American adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were recorded using psychedelics in the last 12 months.
- Some hallucinogens are synthetic products (human-made); others come naturally (from mushrooms or plants).
- Certain psychedelics, like PCP, can be addictive. Whereas the risk of overdose increases among those who take dissociative drugs.
Psychedelics, commonly referred to as hallucinogens, are a type of psychoactive substance that alters the cognitive process, mood, and perception. These substances influence the senses, change a person’s sense of time, thinking, and emotions.
In many cases, recreational use can lead to hallucinations and distorted perception. There are various types of psychedelics. Some emerge naturally in leaves, fungi, vines, trees, etc. Others are scientifically manufactured.
These substances are divided into two main categories: dissociative drugs and classic hallucinogens. Dissociative drugs like PCP, Ketamine, and Salvia cause increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. They are known for causing disorientation and poor coordination.
Classic hallucinogens, particularly LSD and DMT, can lead to sleep disturbances, elevated blood pressure, psychosis, and paranoia. According to experts, some of the most used such substances are LSD, Ayahuasca, NBOMes, and Psilocybin. They are particularly popular with college students.
Recreational psychedelics use is characterized by the increased body temperature, loss of coordination, distorted perception, and disorganized thoughts and behaviors. When combined with other drugs, like alcohol, stimulants, ecstasy, or methamphetamine, psychedelics can be very dangerous.
Those who abuse the substance can quickly develop a tolerance. Psychological dependence could also appear in certain individuals. Although there isn’t enough research on physical dependence on psychedelics or possible withdrawal symptoms from chronic use, people must take the necessary precautions.
Due to their sedative and intoxicating properties, psychedelics can cause a direct impact on the central nervous system, therefore triggering side effects. People can develop a decreased heart rate, inhibitions, disorientation, and sleepiness.
When it comes to overdose and addiction, when consumed in large doses, psychedelics can create a very unpleasant experience. Even though the effects won’t necessarily put the user’s life in danger, they have led to medical emergencies. If you or anyone in your family is struggling with addiction, feel free to contact the best rehab center for women in Texas. Here, you can get the ultimate access to treatment.
Psychedelics for Chronic Pain and Eating Disorder Treatments
Some psychedelics are approved or are currently being researched for medicinal use. Small-scale studies indicate that these substances are safe to analyze. Based on the preliminary findings, psychedelic therapy showed significant clinical improvement, with little to no serious side effects.
In the last couple of years, data proved a potent potential for classical psychedelics, mainly psilocybin (the primary compound in “magic mushrooms”), for treating mental health problems, such as addiction, anxiety, and depression.
In 2018, the FDA marked psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy.” Now, in the process of testing, experts claim it could have the potential to treat depression that’s severely resistant to treatment.
TRYP therapeutics at https://tryptherapeutics.com/ is currently at the forefront of developing a psilocybin-based drug to treat fibromyalgia and eating disorders. TRYP therapeutics is a renowned pharmaceutical company that focuses on finding and developing clinical-stage compounds capable of helping with various diseases.
The goal of TRYP therapeutics is to find treatment for illnesses with high-unmet medical needs. So, they focused their attention on psilocybin use. But, how can psychedelics help with pain and eating disorders? What are the potential benefits they can offer? Here is what experts have to say.
Psychedelics for Chronic Pain – How Does It Work?
An estimated 50 million American adults (20.4%) had chronic pain, and 19.6 million (8%) struggled with high-impact chronic pain in 2016. The high prevalence range is often associated with old age. The older the body gets, the bigger the risk of developing aches and discomfort.
According to a 2020 study, chronic pain is a complex mechanism. When someone has chronic pain, many visceral and somatic pain signals wreak havoc in the neural circuitry through central and peripheral sensations. That’s why people interpret the pain both physically and emotionally.
Since pain has both cognitive and physical components, psychedelics could have the potential to manage chronic pain conditions like regional pain disorder, tinnitus, cluster headache, phantom-limb pain, etc.
Psychedelics have potent mind-altering compounds, which can “reset” specific areas of the brain responsible for functional connectivity. These are part of many central neuropathic states or pains in the central nervous system. With medicinal psychedelic use, the agents from the substances can help reverse the changes in the neural connections found in chronic pain patients.
But, their use for chronic pain is limited. So far, psychedelics have potential analgesic compounds in treating cluster headache, phantom limb pain, and cancer pain. Psilocybin seems to be the most effective substance at curbing pain. The reason why experts are studying psychedelics is because of the current opioid epidemic.
In 2019, over 10 million people 12 years or older misused opioids. Plus, 9.7% abused their prescription pain relievers, leaving them exposed to potential health complications. In fact, 8% to 12% of patients who take opioids to manage their chronic pain develop opioid use disorder.
Since not all hallucinogens are addictive, like opioids, they can be a practical approach to managing pain. Plus, when managed properly, psychedelics can have a favorable safety profile. Alone or when paired with a multi-pronged approach can create lasting, meaningful, and potent results.
But, more research on psychedelics and chronic pain is necessary to evaluate its full extent and potential. Although data is limited, it seems that these substances have significant potential for such medical purposes.
Those who use opioids or hallucinogens but can’t stop taking the substances can contact the best rehab center for women in Texas. With expert help, you can get your health back on track without letting substance abuse take over your life.
Psychedelics for Eating Disorders – Potential Impact and Effectiveness
Unlike the majority of mental health complications that respond well to medicine, eating disorders are not that easy to manage with conventional psychiatric treatment. The problem is, these disorders don’t respond well to treatment.
Take anorexia nervosa, for example. This disorder has the biggest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses. Plus, not many psychological treatments proved effective, and no currently available psychiatric medications can be used as an efficient treatment approach.
To give people a better choice for managing eating disorders, scientists have started analyzing psychedelic medicine. The exact mechanism of these substances is still unknown. But experts believe they could drastically decrease activity in the brain’s DMN (default mode network).
Also known as a default network, the DMN is composed of multiple brain regions that depict lower activity levels when our brain is engaged. Like, when we pay attention to something, for example. The activity levels tend to increase when the body is awake and isn’t doing any mental exercise.
But, when there is a mental health condition, such as OCD, anxiety, and depression, that’s when the DMN becomes extremely over-reactive. Psychedelics might be capable of decreasing the activity in the default network, providing the system with the much-needed break from all those ingrained psychological patterns. These substances might also boost creativity and brain neuroplasticity.
So, what does that have to do with an eating disorder? Patients with anorexia nervosa struggle with impaired cognitive flexibility, which could be caused by the overactive default network. That’s why scientists believe psychedelics might be a worthwhile treatment approach. But more research is necessary to study its full impact.
Based on 2021 research, psychedelic therapy is currently showing promise for many mental health conditions. While the efficiency of symptom-targeted treatments for eating disorders needs more data, better psychological wellbeing and mental health are believed to benefit the patient with a greater treatment outcome.
These trials showed a great improvement in wellbeing and depression patients who used psychedelic therapy. Studies such as these are looking to encourage further research on psychedelics and eating disorders.
How Can These Substances Be Used for Psychiatric Treatment?
Psychological support is a key factor in psychedelic treatment. This is known as psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. When treating psychological conditions, this type of medicine often features three major components:
- Preparation sessions where a patient is prepared before the drug administration.
- Psychological support during the patient’s psychedelic trip.
- Integration session after getting a dose.
Each session is a fundamental component in gaining insight into the possible beneficial properties of psychedelics. Psychedelics do have something in common with conventional antidepressants, like serotonergic modulation.
The sensory systems in the human body rely on neuromodulators. Serotonin is one of them. It provides flexibility when processing information due to stimuli, such as light intensity during the day. Serotonin is involved in impulse control, mood, cognition, and motor function. But, psychedelics also possess key differences.
The reason why psychedelic therapy differs from typical psychiatric treatment is that instead of correcting the neurochemical dysfunction on a day-to-day basis, psychedelics trigger modifications in the conscious experience and brain functioning. Therefore, these substances can help create meaningful behavioral, cognitive, and emotional changes.
Psychedelics And Their Capability to Help With Eating Disorders
Disturbed or abnormal eating habits can put a lot of pressure on the human body. People can develop binge eating disorders, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, restrictive food intake, and more.
With the constantly evolving technological advances, experts are always on the lookout for novel treatments. Anything that might be used to the patient’s advantage.
Scientists are evaluating a couple of psychedelics in terms of eating disorders. Each substance has a range of uses and effects, providing it with a different ability to influence the central nervous system. Here is a quick look at the most investigated psychedelics.
For many years, experts have been using specific ketamine doses as an anesthetic. When taken in smaller amounts, this substance can impair consciousness for a short amount of time.
Based on research, ketamine has been evaluated for the treatment of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), depression, and PTSD. This substance seems to have anti-depressive compounds capable of aiding people with mental instability.
Since ketamine is an approved medicine, more and more experts have been using it to treat psychiatric disorders. This is called ketamine infusion therapy. The treatment uses multiple or a single infusion to manage psychiatric disorders.
An FDA-approved version of the derivative of ketamine is Esketamine. This nasal spray is approved for treatment-resistant depression. More trials are still underway to evaluate its efficiency and long-term impact. Even though there are no clinical trials on ketamine for eating disorders, these substances might have the ability to help with the disorder.
Mainly used in ceremonial practices, Ayahuasca has been in the public eye for quite a long time. This psychoactive plant-based tea, native to the Amazonian region, causes hallucinations and an altered state of consciousness. People who take Ayahuasca claim to experience mystical events and powerful visions, typical for a shamanistic ceremony.
Research indicates that this substance could prove useful for mental health: particularly addiction, anxiety, and depression. Exactly 13 volunteers with an eating disorder took part in a semi-structured interview after using ceremonial Ayahuasca. Those who consumed the substance claimed to experience a quick reduction in eating disorder symptoms and thoughts.
It helped them process their most uncomfortable and painful memories, giving them the self-acceptance and love they need. According to experts, Ayahuasca is believed to have spiritual healing elements. Although more large-scale studies are necessary, Ayahuasca might have the potential to become a therapeutic tool for eating disorders.
These drugs can cause many changes in the brain. Classic psychedelics are very powerful. Imaging shows that all drugs have a significant impact on neural activity. When under the influence, brain function is less strained.
This means that the body feels emotions, and the networks of the brain become a lot more connected. That’s why those who take it claim they achieve a high state of introspection and consciousness.
Benefits such as these have led scientists to believe that psychedelics could have the capability to provide key therapeutic properties. Of course, when someone is under the influence of such a drug, they could put themselves in danger. Probably with their self-destructive behavior.
This normally happens under the influence. But, when used as a medicinal therapy, problems such as these could be avoided. Besides, any medicinal substance is not without its flaws. So, it is safe to say that this one will have them too. What scientists are currently looking for is a way to turn these products into usable compounds. Capable of managing a range of different health problems.
Magic mushrooms contain an active ingredient known as Psilocybin. After extensive research on its ability to treat OCD, anxiety, addiction, and depression, Oregon became the first state in the country to legalize psilocybin for its medicinal properties.
Right now, scientists are studying whether this substance has the tolerability, efficacy, and safety to help different patients with anorexia nervosa. The latest findings suggest that the substance with therapy is effective in treating major depressive disorder.
Given the lack of appropriate treatment, this therapy seems like a viable approach. But, just like any new option on the market, it is important to do a thorough analysis to know the full extent of the treatment in anorexia nervosa.
Psychedelics for Treating Addiction
Psychedelics offer a completely new perspective in treating people from drug dependence and alcoholism. A number of studies indicate that these substances have possible applications in treating addictions.
Even though they are classified as Schedule I drugs (high potential for drug abuse), recent evidence shows that they could be a practical and safe tool for short-term addiction treatment. Some experts believe this alternative treatment to be more effective than conventional approaches.
Based on reports, almost 70% of volunteers who took ketamine psychotherapy kept their alcoholism recovery for a minimum of one year. This is a much better success rate than the group that focused on conventional treatment.
The way this works is relatively simple. Take psilocybin, for example. The emotional center of the brain is called the amygdala. This psychedelic decreases amygdala reactivity and manages emotional stimuli. Therefore, boosting a positive mood in patients.
With time, the brain becomes more dynamic and diverse. That’s because the connectivity between various areas of the brain improves, and the neural patterns start to break down. So, the substance ends up affecting perception and cognition.
The whole purpose of this therapy is to achieve a spiritual or transpersonal experience, known as a peak experience. This is to help the patient dissolve their ego and achieve real progress in maintaining their sober living.
The unique properties of this therapy are providing users with a clear insight into their addiction. This is to help them make a conscious change at temporarily putting down their psychological defense mechanism.
Patients might have an easier time accepting new lifestyle changes that can help them stay on the right track. When medicated, a patient will spend about one hour under the influence of the psychedelic drug. Their altered perceptions and state of consciousness will eventually subside.
As previously mentioned, psychedelic treatment is often paired with other modalities. Most people will need to take a residential program, like the best rehab center for women in Texas. People can participate in interactive classes, group sessions, and educational lectures that focus on the impact of psychedelics.
Are Psychedelics Safe?
One of the biggest misconceptions about psychedelics is that these substances make people insane. The media has portrayed them as incredibly dangerous to use. However, there is enough evidence that shows psychedelics can make you sane when used in the form of medical therapy.
According to the National Institutes of Health, classic serotoninergic psychedelics are regarded as very physiologically safe. Much safer than psychostimulants and opiates. But, even if they can be safe, they could have serious psychological consequences.
Recreational use has caused adverse effects. Some people develop paranoia, which is a massive and uncontrollable distrust of others. But, other bizarre behaviors are not uncommon, like psychosis, where the user detaches themselves from reality.
Users may do things that they don’t normally do in life. They will try to act on risky behaviors, which can put them in a difficult situation.
For example, people who do drugs tend to engage in unsafe sex. In their altered state of consciousness, they don’t care to take the necessary precautions. So, they engage in a risky sexual encounter. This can also happen in people who drink or take other forms of drugs.
Although rare, hallucinogens can cause long-term effects. It can lead to persistent psychosis. Those affected will experience a number of mental problems, such as paranoia, mood fluctuations, visual disturbances, and disorganized thinking.
Flashbacks can also happen without warning. They can occur a couple of days or even a year after use. As a result, many people tend to confuse the adverse reactions to symptoms of a brain tumor or stroke.
These long-term implications have often been recorded in patients with a history of mental diseases. But, they can also appear at the beginning of usage, even after taking the drug for the very first time. Once a person develops this level of unrest, fear, and confusion, they may need behavioral therapies to cope with the disturbances. These adverse reactions have been found in classic hallucinogen patients.
Dissociative drugs can cause different short-term effects. Other than the hallucinations and loss of coordination, high doses can cause amnesia, seizures, anxiety, panic, and memory loss. Long-term implications from dissociative drugs have resulted in addiction.
Those who constantly take PCP can get addicted. The longer their addiction is left unmanaged, the bigger the risk of developing long-term effects. These include speech problems, anxiety, memory loss, and suicidal behavior.
The possibility of overdose depends on the drug. An overdose can happen when the user takes enough of the drug to trigger an adverse reaction with potentially life-threatening complications. The majority of hallucinogens create a very unpleasant experience when taken in high amounts. But, their adverse reactions don’t always put the user’s life in danger.
Extremely high PCP doses can cause coma and seizures. Especially when mixing them with benzos or alcohol. When at an event, it is difficult to pay attention to the doses, which is why people use more than what they intended. To avoid complications such as these, it is important to refrain from using drugs for recreational use.
Psychedelics are definitely gaining momentum. But, that doesn’t mean they will have the same impact when used for recreational purposes. On the contrary, the psychedelic treatment uses controlled methods and therapy to provide the desired result. So, the evidence on psychedelics for treating pain and eating disorders doesn’t involve recreational use.
When properly used, this form of treatment could become a valuable component in treating different diseases. But, to know more about it and whether or not you can get psychedelic-assisted treatment, you would need to consult with a medical specialist.
Currently, more research is being done on the effect of psychedelic treatment. Since drugs can alter feelings, thoughts, and perceptions, they are believed to come in handy for mental health problems. While their analgesic properties can help treat the pain.
Some drugs, like Psilocybin, Ayahuasca, and Ketamine, are studied for their potential impact on treating eating disorders. They could be used as an alternative treatment for anorexia nervosa and treatment-resistant depression. But, more research is necessary to evaluate that claim.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction & pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center to the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.